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Bogotá Hires Actors to Teach People Public Transit Manners

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Getty Images

Well-trafficked public transit networks are powder kegs of social interaction between irate commuters crushed together in close quarters. So it’s no surprise that cities shell out money to remind straphangers to be polite and follow the rules that keep public transportation running smoothly, like exiting buses from the back doors and giving up seats to older and pregnant passengers. New York City’s MTA, for instance, spent more than $76,000 this year to remind passengers to stop dancing on subway poles and to refrain from manspreading

In Bogotá, however, transportation etiquette lessons come not from signs and impersonal overhead announcements, but from actors. In January, the Colombian capital hired three acting troupes to encourage proper transit behavior and shame unruly passengers. 

The city’s public transportation network has been ranked the worst in the world for women, and an estimated 70,000 bus riders a day skip out on paying their fares. The actors, planted within the crowd of everyday commuters, stare down passengers who rush onto buses without waiting for people to exit. They enact skits where one actor holding a baby doll is forced to stand when no one is willing to give up their seat, and the doll falls out of the pretend mother’s hands. They hold loud phone conversations about the dangers of fare evasion, describing fictitious scenarios like how a fare-skipper got hit by a bus.

The plan is kind of genius: People don't always behave as they should on public transit, and a paid actor in the crowd is more likely to speak up (or at least glare) at someone who's flouting the rules of public transportation decorum by hogging seats or standing in front of the doors as people try to enter and exit. 

Unfortunately, there’s no real data showing that the actors are improving bus behavior, and some critics object to the use of city funding for such transit tomfoolery, so the program may not last beyond the next election. But for now, Bogotanos will get the occasional spark of whimsy with their reminder to give up their seats to those who need them. 

[h/t: The Economist]

New Website Lets You Sift Through More Than 700,000 Items Found in Amsterdam's Canals

Amsterdam's canals are famous for hiding more than eight centuries of history in their mud. From 2003 to 2012, archaeologists had the rare opportunity to dig through an urban river that had been pumped dry, and now 99% Invisible reports that their discoveries are available to browse online.

The new website, dubbed Below the Surface, was released with a book and a documentary of the same name. The project traces the efforts of an archaeological dig that worked parallel to the construction of Amsterdam's new North/South metro line. To bore the train tunnels, crews had to drain part of the River Amstel that runs through the city and dig up the area. Though the excavation wasn't originally intended as an archaeological project, the city used it as an opportunity to collect and preserve some of its history.

About 800 years ago, a trading port popped up at the mouth of the River Amstel and the waterway become a bustling urban hub. Many of the artifacts that have been uncovered are from that era, while some are more contemporary, and one piece dates back to 4300 BCE. All 700,000 objects, which include, toys, coins, and weapons, are cataloged online.

Visitors to the website can look through the collection by category. If you want to view items from the 1500s, for example, you can browse by time period. You also have the option to search by material, like stoneware, for example, and artifact type, like clothing.

After exploring the database, you can learn more about its history in the Below the Surface documentary on Vimeo (English subtitles are coming soon).

[h/t 99% Invisible]

The 10 Most Affordable Cities for Living Abroad

Picking up your life and moving abroad is expensive, but just how expensive depends on where you choose to make your new home. Mercer's latest Cost of Living Survey reported by Travel + Leisure lays out which cities around the world are most affordable for expats, and which are the priciest.

For the report, Mercer compared more than 375 cities across over 200 metrics including cost of food, coffee, clothing, housing, gas, and public transportation. If you want to live abroad, the cheapest city to move to is Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. It's followed by Tunis, Tunisia in second place and Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in third.

The Cost of Living Survey also looked at the least affordable destinations for expats. Hong Kong is the most expensive, with Tokyo, Japan at No. 2 and Zurich, Switzerland ranking No. 3. Cities in Asia account for six of the top 10.

If you can afford it, there are plenty of reasons to spend time living outside your home country: Research has found that people who live abroad exhibit increased creativity, communication skills, and even earning potential. When planning your next long-term trip, consider these budget-friendly destinations.

1. Tashkent, Uzbekistan
2. Tunis, Tunisia
3. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
4. Banjul, The Gambia
5. Karachi, Pakistan
6. Blantyre, Malawi
7. Tbilisi, Georgia
8. Minsk, Belarus
9. Tegucigalpa, Honduras
10. Managua, Nicaragua

[h/t Travel + Leisure]


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